The website Sojourners recently published an article entitled “Who Would Jesus Cut from Medicaid?” by the organization’s political director Lauren W. Reliford. According to its website, Soujourners is “an ecumenical Christian media and advocacy organization that works towards social and racial justice…. Sojourners are Christians who follow Jesus, but who also sojourn with others in different faith traditions and all those who are on a spiritual journey.”
Reliford suggests that Jesus would not cut anyone from Medicaid, the welfare-state program that provides medical care for the poor, and instead would expand this governmental program to cover more poor people.
But she is flat-out wrong. Jesus, in fact, condemns this particular welfare-state program, along with all other welfare-state programs. The reason? The concept of force. God opposes using force to bring people to Him or to do His will.
Reliford points out that her Christian faith is rooted “in Jesus’ lived example of how we are to be unapologetic in our support for each other.” She reminds us that Jesus said that we should “love thy neighbor as thyself.” She writes: “I imagined this meant, well, help thy neighbor, assist thy neighbor, care for thy neighbor, nurture thy neighbor — all without condition or justification, just as Jesus did.” She wishes that “Christian lawmakers felt the same way.”
Where Reliford goes wrong in her analysis, however, is with respect to the manner in which government funds its welfare-state programs. The government collects the money it uses to fund its programs through force. That’s what taxation is all about — the forcible collection of money from people. There is nothing voluntary about taxation. If a person refuses to pay his taxes to Caesar, he is met with the force of the government through such actions as liens, garnishments, attachments, indictments, incarceration, and fines.
It’s with the concept of force that Reliford has a blind spot. She obviously is unable see the difference between voluntary action to help the poor and using government to force people to help the poor. For her, it’s all one and the same thing, at least when it comes to welfare-state programs.
The reason I add that last qualifier is that it is a virtual certainty that Reliford would recognize the wrongfulness of a private person forcing another person to help the poor. Suppose, for example, I were to accost her with a gun while she was withdrawing money from an ATM. I command her to withdraw the maximum allowable amount and give it to me. I threaten to shoot her if she refuses. She complies and turns over her money to me. I take the money to the poorest section of town and give it all to people who need medical care.
Am I a good, caring, and compassionate person for what I have done? Why not? I have helped the poor, haven’t I? I haven’t use any of Reliford’s money for myself. Why would anyone not consider me to be a good, caring, compassionate person?
I am certain that Reliford would not consider what I had done to be consistent with Christian principles. She would view me as a robber, and rightly so. She might even call the police and support the state’s criminal prosecution of me. She would easily recognize the wrongfulness of my stealing money from her even if I gave it all to the poor.
But let’s assume that instead of robbing her, I instead go to the state legislature and successfully lobby it to impose a healthcare tax on Reliford. The lawmakers agree to my request. Reliford is now forced to pay the same amount of money that I planned to steal from her. The state gives the money to the poor who need medical care, just as I planned to do with the money I stole from her.
Now everything changes for Reliford. For her, the state legislators are good, caring, and compassionate people for taking her money by force and giving it to the poor. She would undoubtedly also put me in the same selfless category, given that I was the one who did the lobbying. She would even consider herself to be a good, caring, and compassionate person for paying the state’s healthcare tax.
Jesus wants people to come to Him voluntarily. The last thing He wants is for someone to be forced to come to Him. The story of the young rich man comes to mind. When Jesus challenged him with the admonition to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, the man walked away sadly and dejectedly. But notice something important: Jesus did not summon a government centurion and declare “This man has refused to help the poor and therefore should be forced to do so.” Instead, honoring the sacred gift of free will, Jesus let the young rich man make his own choice.
Although Reliford perverts the Christian message with her defense of welfare-state programs, I can’t be too hard on her. That’s because I once had her same mindset. I too once believed that the government had a moral duty to help the poor. In fact, I couldn’t understand why anyone would object to welfare-state programs. After all, it’s the government’s money, right? Why shouldn’t it be “free” to spend its money the way it wants, just like everyone else?
And then l discovered libertarianism, which was a real Road to Damascus experience for me. It was then that I realized that the difference between force, which is what the government’s welfare-state programs are based on, and voluntarism is the difference between night and day. It was then I came to the realization that welfare-state programs are not a reflection of God’s will but a denigration of it. Hopefully, Reliford will have the same experience.